By Stephen Ubanna
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in 2003, nobody, gave it any opportunity of Succeeding. The April, 2022 edition, of ‘’EFCC Alert’’, the anti-graft agency publication, appears to have given an insight into its superlative performance in its efforts ‘’to eradicate economic and financial crimes through the Court processes and other preventive measures that were said to have been put in place in the country in the last 19 years .
According to the report, the agency had recovered mind boggling amount in different world currencies from the 419ners. It was said to have recovered N152.1 billion, $386.220 million, #1.183million, Euro 156,246.76, 1,723,310.00 Saudi Riyal, 1,900.00 South African Rand and 1,400.00 Canadian dollars for the government.
Nuhu Ribadu, the then Assistant Commissioner of Police, and the pioneer Chairman of the Commission, who had retired as an Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, but now a Politician, may have set up a good foundation for the Commission by going after 419ers in their hideout across the country and different part of the world with collaboration of the Interpol.
The Commission may have sent a message to the 419ners and their sponsors that there is no more hiding place for them when its personnel arrested Emmanuel Nwude, Amaka Anamba, Emmanuel Ofolue, Nzeribe Okoli Obum Osakwe, who wre prosecuted prosecuted and convicted for allegedly defrauding a Brazilian Bank in the city of SanPaulo, in a $242 million heist.
The five 419ners, who were said to have deceived one Nelson Sakagushi, a Director of Brazil’s Banco Noroeste ‘’to invest in a phantom project purportedly for the construction of a new airport in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, in exchange of a $10 million Commission’’ but were unlucky to have played into the waiting hands of Ribadu. The Commission successful prosecution and conviction of the Nwudes may have opened the floodgate for other big time 419ners and top Bank Executives conniving with them to be arrested, prosecuted and convicted including top government officials.
The case of Maurice Ibekwe who was said to have defrauded a German of $300,000 in 1992, Harry Odiawa, who defrauded one George Blick a North American country of the United States citizen of over N3billion , Tafa Balogun, a former Inspector general of Police,IGP, who was prosecuted over alleged N7 billion fraud, and Late Dieprete Alamieyesiega, a former governor of Bayelsa state, who was arrested and convicted for defrauding the state OF ITS funds, bear eloquent testimony to the EFCC, efforts to rid the country of the 41ners.
There were other high profile cases that were said to have been handled by the Commission within the 19 years under review like the case of Kingsley Ikpe, a Harvad- trained Investor and Managing Director, Thomas Kingsley Securities, allegedly involved in a N185 million fraud.
The arrest of Basil Nkenchor, who was said to have impersonated Ibrahim Abba, a one –time Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, now baptized Nigerian National Petroleum Development Company Limited, NNPC, with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill , PIB, by the National Assembly , which had been assented into Law by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 for a purported contract scam may have further popularized its activities of the Commission world- wide.
The Commission was said to have recovered $4.48 million he had collected from a Hongkong woman for the failed contract from him.
Justice Waziri Farida, Ibrahim Larmode,Aand Ibrahim Magu, both former Assistant Commissioners of Police, and now AIGs, and Mohammed Umar, in who had served as Chairman of the Commission between 2008 and 2021, including Abdulrasheed Bawa, the current Chairman were said to have continued from where AIG, Ribadu, rtd, had stopped in the manhunt for the 419ners both within and outside the country.
Take for instance, the arrest and prosecution of Joshua Dariye a and Jolly Nyame, both former governors of Plateau and Taraba, home state of Theophilous Danjuma, a retired Army General and former minister of Defence, during Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration, home state further exposed the good works of the anti-graft agency.
The prosecution and conviction of Tony Omenyi, an Air Force C Chief, Okey Nwosu, former Managing Director, of the defunct Finbank, Francis Atuche, a one-time Managing Director of Bank PHB, Jerry Ogbonna, an ex Navy Captain, Abdulraheed Maina, ex-Chairman, Pension Reform TAsk Team, PRTT, and his son , Faisal was said to have also made the News Headlines. Ii instructive to note that the trio, Late Alamieseigha, Dariye and Nyame, were convicted former governors many have changed for good as they were said to have been granted Presidential pardon.
Bawa, the current Chairman of the Commission, had said between 2003 and 2021, no fewer than 4,876 suspects were prosecuted and successfully convicted by the commission. The EFCC Alert reported that 2,220 suspects were arrested, tried and Jailed in 2021, alone.
Informed sources told Thee Value News that many of the high profile cases had been gathering dust in the Court over the years but were taken up by Bawa, the Current EFCC, Chairman, on assumption of office, in 2021by ensuring that the cases were revisited. He had his way.
Although, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, a former governor of Abia state, who was said to have had his 2019 conviction voided by the Supreme Court, may think, he has excaped from the agency troubles but it has just begun as he may be dragged back to Court soon. The Abia born politician is currently the Coordinator of Ahmad Lawan for President Campaign Organisation under the APC ticket. Note that Lawan, is the current Nigerian Senate President and Buhari political ally.
Perhaps, one area, the Commission, was said to have made appreciable impact over the last two decades was in the area of uncovering the high level of fraud in oil subsidy, pension scam, internet fraud, money Laundering, Bank fraud, along with other emerging Financial crimes.
Indeed, the recent arrest of Ahmed, Idris the Accountant General of the Federation over alleged diversion and laundering of N80 million speaks volume. The Federal Government Accountant General, according to Wilson Uwujarem, the EFCC spokesperson had reported that the money was raked off the ngovernment’s funds through bogus consultancies and other legal activities using proxies, family members and close associates. The funds were laundered through real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.
The Commission was said to have also arrested Nsima Ekere, a one –governor Candidate of the APC, in Akwa Ibom state and Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NNDC, beween 2016 and 2018, for allegedly receiving kickbacks from contracts award, of over N47 billion between 2017 and 2019.
Godswell Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom state, who had served as Buhari’s minister of ministry f Niger Delta, had said that the report of the Audit Committee on the Commission since its establishment showed that ‘’there were over 13,000 abandoned projects in the region’’, thus giving Bawa led EFCC, more work to do to recover the lost funds from the NNDC contractors and their insider Collaborators.
Only recently, the Commission personnel had broken into Senator Rochas Okorocha, a former governor of Imo state residence in the high profile Maitama area to arrest him for jumping bail earlier granted him amidst stiff resistance. In prosecuting the former south eat state of Imo governor over alleged diversion of public funds and properties to the tune of N2.9 billion, had been granted Administrative bail.
Many believe that the EFCC personnel may have invaded the APC Presidential aspirants’ Maitama residence to forestall him from attending the party Presidential screening that would qualify him to contest the primaries on June 6, 2022. But Uwujarem, the EFCC spokesperson would not take it.
He had told those that cares to listen that the high profile Igbo politician should have himself to blame for whatever that may have happened to him because he gave room for it. He had said that the former Imo state governor had twice stalled his trial in Court owning to his absence despite repeated appeals to him to honour the invitation extended to him about the Court case.
He noted that the Commission had no option but to effect his arrest through other means to bring him to trial as the trial Justice Inyang Ekwo, of the Federal High Court in Abuja had said on March 28, 2022, before adjourning the Okorcha’s case until May 30, 2021, that’’ it will be the last adjournment that would be granted on the matter’’.